Against the backdrop of $6 million in recent budget cuts for our local school district—and lessons apparently not fully learned during the Great Depression over 70 years ago—comes a growing chorus for revamping an obviously broken system for financing public schools in our country.
Back in 1934 teachers protested by the thousands—carrying signs and stopping traffic—public schools survived (barely) the Great Depression but the basic funding inequities were never fixed. Now that our country is in a ‘meltdown’ of sorts the challenges to a quality public education are being compounded—those who need help the most are often the worst equipped as property taxes remain an anchor for school budgets—but now the pinch is being felt by more than just the poor in urban environments. States such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey are reportedly making plans and taking action to re-engineer the way public education is funded—efforts that bear watching—but formulas are only part of the equation.
In addition to the long-overdue change referenced above new revenue streams must be contemplated, management philosophy will need to change and much greater synergy with partners is likely to be required to meet the challenges of today…much less those of tomorrow. Said another way, on top of changing basic funding formulas, more of our public schools will need an increasingly entrepreneurial mindset that might include incentives, mergers, scheduling changes and stronger accountabilities across the board.
What are our locally accepted metrics? How do we rate against those now? What must be done to drive meaningful and sustainable positive change? What are the roles and responsibilities to make it happen? How will our efforts be evaluated? How will the general public and other stakeholders be kept informed? Can we afford—literally or figuratively—to fail? (the answer is no, just look at the staggering implications of dropouts, teen pregnancy, juvenile crime, etc)
NOTE: much of the content for this blog was taken from a recent feature in USA TODAY (April 9) by Stanford researcher Jack Schneider